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What is your purpose?

We're continuing our celebration of the Wisconsin wellness practitioners who were voted in the Top 50 Health Promotion Professionals in WELCOA's national competition. WELCOA states, "The Top 50 Health Promotion Professionals were chosen based on peer voting and on the emprirical review of a distinguished judging panel."

This week's highlight is on Aaron Hunnel, a wellness coordinator for Network Health (insurance company), a health coach for the Wisconsin Army National Guard, and a business owner delivering corporate keynotes and trainings around the country.

Hunnel states "All of these opportunities and experiences have taught me one simple yet important lesson: People define wellness differently. Rather than telling people how they should define wellness, I’ve discovered that empowering people to define their own wellness has greater impact and results."

When it comes to success, Hunnel speaks of a school district he implemented stress-based interventions, named "Mindful March".  This included 1,400 teachers and staff. "The purpose of this program aimed to challenge participants to engage in mindfulness both individually and collectively. Wellness takes on a whole new dynamic when the culture embraces it and it becomes part of the organization. That was our vision. And we wanted to provide the right amount of diverse experiences for our participants, because we knew people connect with and are motivated by different types of opportunities," explained Hunnel. 

During March and early April they offered a challenge to engage people in their own mindfulness. "Mindful March" was kicked off with a Mindful Eating webinar aimed at empowering people to redefine what nutrition means to them and why mindful eating contributes to total wellness. They simultaneously launched WELCOA’s Eat Right for Life, so participants also had a chance to practice the application.

Each week there was an initiative that suppored Mindfulness:

  • "We involved the local YMCA and incorporated a mindfulness “Focus on Family” event."
  • "We coordinated a mindful walking group."
  • "We challenged participants to submit what they believed wellness meant to them and made a word collage to show the diversification and unification of how mindfulness is defined, and how it’s intertwined in our community/culture."
  • "We concluded the program with a live meditation event where participants spent a few minutes sharing and building relationships, provided them with the reasons meditation can enhance mindfulness, and finally conducted a 20 minute guided meditation."

At the conclusion of this program, each participant was able to articulate at least one way they believe they can practice mindfulness in their lives. "Participants loved the program, and especially the guided meditation. We just scheduled our second guided meditation event based on the high demand." explained Hunnel.



My first experience with the Wellness Council of Wisconsin came during the annual worksite wellness conference while working on my bachelor’s degree at UW Stevens Point. As a student in the Health Promotion and Wellness program, I had the pleasure of helping the day of the conference by checking in attendees and introducing breakout speakers. I met some amazing and likeminded people from around the state, learned about some cutting-edge research and compelling stories from the presenters, and ate some very fantastic food. I quickly learned about the incredible value WCWI brought to workplaces around the state of Wisconsin and the sense of community they build between professionals and their respective organizations. I knew right then I wanted to be part of this.

I began regularly going to the annual conference and soaking up all the information and resources from all who were there. During one of the keynotes, I was blindsided by a question that would change me in a special way. Vic Strecher asked the audience, “What is your purpose?” At the time I felt like I knew myself pretty well and lived a life I loved. But that question made me realize that something was in fact missing from my life – a personal purpose statement. I took this idea and literally ran with it. I developed my purpose statement, memorized it, and made sure that my thoughts, beliefs and choices aligned with it. This helped shape my mindset which I used with a variety of clients and organizations.  

Living with purpose lit a fire within me and I began researching other aspects of wellbeing through more philosophical approaches such as gratitude, optimism, hope and happiness, and how each is interwoven into the fabric of our health. As I conducted this research, I found new and innovative ways to deliver programs and empower people to improve their health and wellbeing. Using the WELCOA 7 Benchmarks, I leveraged the power of purpose, passion, and positivity to help manage the change process for employees and organizations alike. Being part of WCWI has helped me innovate and strategize in a variety of ways to help meet the needs of my clients. 

At the 2015 Annual Worksite Wellness Conference, the WCWI gave me the pleasure of sharing some of my ideas and stories about how we can turn obstacles into opportunities through developing a growth mindset, cultivating courage and building meaningful relationships. I found that each employee has a story to be told, and that as a practitioner, it’s not my job to define what health and wellness means for someone. Rather, it is my duty to empower people to authentically define what health and wellness means to them, and support them as they pave the path towards their own purpose. Organizations of all kinds (e.g. manufacturing, corporate, academics and military) have been quite receptive to this non-traditional approach. I believe it’s because having purpose produces a strong sense of clarity, connection and commitment to ourselves, peers and organizations. This creates the right conditions for a healthy workplace culture and climate, but most importantly a healthy life.

After working with Jessica, Lisa, Katie and Laura from the WCWI, I am amazed at the quality and quantity of all that they accomplish each year throughout Wisconsin. I’ve come to realize that the premium programs, exciting events and turnkey resources are top notch because they are an extraordinary team with big hearts and iron willpower. WCWI would not be successful without them. I’m very thankful for all they do and looking forward to creating some amazing experiences with all of you in the WCWI cohort.


Aaron Hunnel, Top 50 Health Promotion Professional

Wellness Coordinator, Network Health

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